|In 1979, as we were searching for a mattress for a comfortable home-birth for my son Jasper, we discovered the Futon, a Japanese cotton-filled mattress. When our friends came over to visit the baby, they expressed interest in the Futon we had made, so we started to make more, and sell them in my waterbed shop. At that time there were only a handful of Futon stores in the country. This was the birth of our company known as Great Lakes Futon.
Soon we developed a simple mail-order Futon Kit with materials which included cotton batting, cotton muslin, a tufting needle with wool yarn to hold the batting in place after the Futon was stuffed, along with sewing instructions. We advertised the kits in publications like "the Yoga Journal" and "East/West Journal"
Word spread to Japan that their traditional mattress was starting to become popular in the US. One day I received a letter from the Nakazawa family of Osaka, Japan, who had read a story about our company. Since Futon making is a craft taught by families and schools in Japan, and Shegeki Nakazawa was one of Japan's premier "futonier's" having won many awards for his craft, he was interested in our story. I was invited to come to Japan and visit. It was a great honor. I stayed with the family; Atsuko, Shegeki's wife, their two sons Taro and Yutski, and Grandma and Grandpa, Shegeki's father, who was an expert pillow maker. They taught me their art.
Japanese Futons are quite a bit different than the ones we produce in North America. They are quite thin, two to three inches. The Japanese traditionally roll out their Futon on their tatami mat floors every night to sleep, and roll them back in the morning. The tatami mats are not hard like wooden floors, so they offer a little bit of "give" under the Futon. This is how I slept in Japan.
"Word spread to Japan on this American revolution of sorts that their traditional mattress was getting popular in the US."
When I returned from Japan I was inspired to make the best handmade Futons I could. We had a good core group of futoniers, at Great Lakes Futons but when Shegehi and his family came to visit in 1989 and taught us his craft, we only got better!
It is my privilege and pleasure to provide you with these wonderful products for your comfort and enjoyment, and I thank you for your business.
Rich "Japh" Komassa